Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
A second online petition for a referendum on the subject of Greek life went live at noon on Monday. The new petition, a link to which has been shared on Facebook by Swarthmore students, has been primarily promoted by its creator, Joyce Wu ‘15, who also created a petition on the existence of Greek life in February.
The last petition for a referendum on the existence of Greek Life at Swarthmore received the necessary votes within a couple days. This time around, it appears to be taking longer for Wu to rally the necessary 155 signatures to present the petition to StuCo for a campus wide referendum.
As of last night at 7 p.m., the petition had received 126 electronic signatures. But Wu says she’s optimistic and won’t stop until it has enough signatures.
“It’s definitely going to happen,” Wu said.
Both petitions include a question about banning Greek life, though this petition includes five additional questions about reforms to Greek life. Responses to the individual questions would be independent of one another. Each question begins with the phrase “Do you support…” suggesting that if the petition becomes a referendum and goes before the student body, any votes would be merely symbolic. Dean Braun has stated that the student body does not have the power to ban Greek life on campus.
The questions read as follows:
1. Do you support ceasing Delta Upsilon’s and Kappa Alpha Theta’s affiliations to their national chapters?2. Do you support admitting students of all genders to sororities and fraternities?3. Do you support making fraternity houses into substance-free spaces?4. Do you support merging all sororities and fraternities into one campus building?5. Do you support having no campus buildings expressly for the purpose of housing Greek organizations?6. Do you support the abolition of sororities and fraternities at Swarthmore College?
Text proceeding these questions states, “While the two campus-wide meetings that took place following the last referendum aided in determining how some students felt about Greek life and social life on campus, there is no tool as effective as a referendum to make it clear that the questions being asked need to be about a complete structural overhaul of the fraternities and sorority.” Wu stressed that the goal is “structural reform that goes beyond the surface level.”
Wu said that these new refinements were made to widen the discussion about Greek life. “A lot of people raised concerns that the original campaign was just about abolishment, and that was too extreme of a stance,” she said.
She said that further discussions may be held before the end of the year. She said small group discussions in Sharples are being planned. “I would like to have a plan for the student body and StuCo before the end of the semester,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever reach the intensity we had at the beginning of the discussion, but I’d like to keep the momentum going.” She worries that crucial momentum will be lost if students leave for summer break before the discussion can reach the next step, whatever that may be.
StuCo, which helped facilitate one of the last two discussions, is interested in helping with any new discussions. StuCo Co-President Victor Brady ‘13 wrote in an email that StuCo is “hoping to have a series of facilitated events in which we maybe convene as a large body to begin with and then break down to smaller tables with one facilitator each to begin to really look at policy solutions.”
StuCo has “really been thinking about ways to generate some solutions to many of the issues and concerns raised in the conversations we’ve had so far,” he wrote. As far as defining a long-term goal, Brady said the Swarthmore community should work “to make the substantive changes we need and that will ensure a safe, fun, and inclusive social life.”
Students speaking out against the new petition include David Hill ’13, a member of Delta Upsilon, who called Wu’s recent move “irritating.”
“I was quite displeased because I thought that we were making good progress,” he said.
“DU is trying to do its best,” he said, citing the new sober brother program, in which two to three DU brothers wearing bright orange t-shirts will be sober at every event on Thursday and Saturday nights.
“It was mentioned explicitly that the purpose of the first referendum was to create more dialogue, and I think there was improvement there,” Hill said. “I think the best way to step forward is for DU to maintain its commitment to be open and welcoming.”
By contrast, he said that the atmosphere of discussion is not open enough. “I have a legitimate feeling that whatever I say or do will be used against us, based on behavior that I have seen so far,” he said.
An initiation ceremony for the first pledge class to Kappa Alpha Theta, Swarthmore’s first sorority since the mid-1930s, will take place this Saturday and will be attended by Wellness Coordinator Satya Nelms. Wu said she was not aware of the initiation ceremony. “I’m not trying to stir anything up,” she said.
This article has been changed to reflect the following information: Joyce Wu ’15 did not know the Kappa Alpha Theta initiation ceremony would be taking place Saturday. An earlier version of this article overlooked that fact.